Last week I was doing a talk at a conference at Leeds University about Post Punk.
It was an interesting event and made more interesting by the fact that post punk has become a thing, a scene, and a definable set of rules to be picked over years later by academics.
I guess it was Simon Reynolds excellent book that started this. It was great that he pushed the spotlight onto the insane activity that poured out of the breach created by punk rock- the DIY labels, fanzines and bands that were re-writing music on their own terms.
The only problem is that it has made a scene that had no rules and no boundaries become very linear. Post punk has become fashionable in the past few years but it has become narrowed down to the Gang Of Four and The Fall and maybe A Certain Ratio when someone feels a little but funky. I don’t remember it that way. I remember a blurring of boundaries after punk with a simultaneous leap into the future and a re-affirmation of the past as the shackles of the punk rock Year Zero were thrown away. And whilst the aforementioned bands were key bands of the period there was also great music getting made by Killing Joke and Bauhaus and other bands who have been lumped in with the Goth scene.
It may not fit into the newly neat narrative but the so called Goth scene was equally innovative with both Killing Joke and Bauhaus incorporating dub into glam and tribal musics and creating whole new soundscapes.
The early Adam And the Ants were also making some strange and unsettling music and I’ve often wondered if these bands were a bit too strange and in some cases a bit too pretty with a touch or eye liner (or in the case of Killing Joke – dark and ugly with manic face paint) to be taken seriously by the lumpy academic brigade.
It’s a curious fact of rock history that the journalists will always put the bands that look like them on the pedestal and write the other ones out of history. At the time most people I knew seemed to be thrilled by both types of bands and few saw it as separate scenes- the battle lines were drawn up later and the so called Goth bands were annoyingly written out of history even though their influence has been far bigger.
Personally I don’t care that much I have all the records but I often wonder when I look out at the students learning about this fantastic musical time when there were no rules and hope that they are not being short changed by the revised histories of those times.